Events and excursions, Summer 2008

Thursday 29 May - Newstead Abbey - Leader John Becket

John Beckett lecturing outside Newstead Abbey.

John Beckett lecturing outside Newstead Abbey.

In glorious weather, over seventy members of the Society - more attending an excursion than I can ever remember - assembled outside the front door of Newstead Abbey. Our leaders should have been our Chairman Professor John Beckett, and our President Dr Rosalys Coope, but unfortunately illness prevented Rosalys from attending.

First came the lectures, and John, who had been well briefed by Rosalys, spoke about the history of the building and its former occupants. Any study of Newstead before 1630 relies completely on an interpretation of the archaeology, as there are no archival records. The estate was granted to the Byron family in 1540. Much of the priory church was demolished and used for building materials - only the west window remains - but the domestic buildings of the priory were converted over the generations into the family home that we now see.

The Curator, Haidee Jackson next spoke about some of the items in the collection at Newstead. Many of these are associated with the 6th Lord Byron, the poet ('mad, bad and dangerous to know'), to whom Newstead is something of a shrine. Although inextricably linked to Newstead, Byron spent little of his life there. A building much in need of repair with limited funds at his disposal did not enable him to do much except refurbish one or two rooms. He was, perhaps, more interested in drinking claret with his friends. A fine monument to his dog, Boatswain, who died of rabies, stands in the garden.

Left to right: John Beckett, Haidee Jackson, Janice Avery.

Left to right: John Beckett, Haidee Jackson, Janice Avery.

After the lectures we were taken on an extensive tour of the Abbey and were able to see some of the architectural evidence which had contributed to recent thinking about the way in which the Abbey had developed. (See Rosalys Coope's article in Transaction of the Thoroton Society, vol 111). All in all this was a fascinating visit, throwing much new light on a house very familiar to the people of Nottingham, but which still offers areas for future research.

Colour was added to the day by the presence of a wedding party who had just celebrated their marriage in The Orangery. Dressed in medieval costume, they were enjoying demonstrations of archery and falconry in the grounds before repairing to the city's Tales of Robin Hood, from where they had hired their outfits. (Rumour has it that John Beckett has made a provisional reservation for the costume of the Sheriff of Nottingham, in the hope of persuading the Secretary that it would be a good place to hold the Annual Luncheon.)
Keith Goodman

Wednesday 18 June - Nottingham University Manuscripts & Special Collections - Leader Dorothy Johnston

During the evening Dorothy Johnston, Keeper of Manuscripts & Special Collections, welcomed members of the Society to the new accommodation at King's Meadow Campus. Over forty members attended, and the staff and volunteers were most attentive and welcoming, offering refreshments at the start and end of our visit. We were divided into groups, each of which in turn was introduced to a different area of the department's work. The principal area, not normally seen by the public, was the Store, which provides about 8kms of shelving with environmental and security controls. In the Conservation Workshop staff explained the problems of treating degraded paper and a technique for restoring strength to paper with additional paper pulp was demonstrated. The Digitization Studio showed the equipment and technical work involved in the department's efforts to support access and preservation through the provision of digitized copies. Finally, in the Reading Room we had a chance to see selected items from the collections, and were reminded that Thoroton members are allowed access to the collections, including that of the East Midlands Local Studies Collection. (This is summarized in Newsletter No 52; or it can be viewed at
Leslie Cram

Saturday 12 July - Grantham and East Nottinghamshire Churches - Leader Alan Langton

St. Wulfrum's, Grantham.

Colston Basset old church.

Forty-four members of the Society enjoyed a visit to three churches - each, as it happened, in a different county. First we visited Grantham in Lincolnshire, where the height of the spire and dimensions of the church make it a mini-cathedral in its own right. We were treated to a fine tour, conducted by Mr Brian Buttery, who has been verger of St Wulfrum's for many years. He has a fund of knowledge and a gift of presentation, which kept members entertained for a full hour.

Our next stop was the church of St Mary in Bottesford, Leicestershire, where the parish administrator, Mrs Judith Wells, gave us an informative talk on this splendid church, which also has a fine spire, and an association with the Manners family and the Dukes of Rutland and their family tombs.

Our third stop was at Colston Bassett, Nottinghamshire, where the Society's own Adrian Henstock, a knowledgeable student of the area's churches, gave us a tour of the impressive new church - even if excessively large for such a small village - and its predecessor out in the fields, a ruin which is now excellently protected by English Heritage. The day was suitably completed by a very good Thoroton tea in Granby Village Hall.
Alan Langton